Medicinal Chemistry of the Anti-Diabetic Effects of Momordica Charantia: Active Constituents and Modes of Actions

The Open Medicinal Chemistry Journal 9 Sept 2011 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874104501105010070


Diabetes mellitus (DM) is one of the oldest known human disease currently affecting more than 200 million people worldwide. Diabetes mellitus is derived from two Greek words meaning siphon and sugar. In DM, patients have high blood level of glucose and this passes out with urine. This is because the endocrine pancreas does not produce either or not enough insulin or the insulin which is produced is not exerting its biochemical effect (or insulin resistance) effectively. Insulin is a major metabolic hormone which has numerous functions in the body and one main role is to stimulate glucose uptake into body’s cells where it is utilized to provide energy. The disease is classified into type 1 and type 2 DM. Type 1 DM develops when the insulin producing β cells have been destroyed and are unable to produce insulin. This is very common in children and is treated with insulin. Type 2 DM (T2DM) develops when the body is unable to produce an adequate amount of insulin or the insulin which is provided does not work efficiently. This is due to life style habits including unhealthy diet, obesity, lack of exercise and hereditary and environmental factors. Some symptoms of DM include excess urination, constant thirst, lethargy, weight loss, itching, decreased digestive enzyme secretion, slow wound healing and other related symptoms. If left untreated, DM can result in severe long-term complications such as kidney and heart failure, stroke, blindness, nerve damage, exocrine glands insufficiency and other forms of complications. T2DM can be treated and controlled by prescribed drugs, regular exercise, diet (including some plant-based food) and general change in life style habits. This review is concerned with the role of plant-based medicine to treat DM. One such plant is Momordica charantia which is grown in tropical countries worldwide and it has been used as a traditional herbal medicine for thousands of years although its origin in unknown. This review examines the medicinal chemistry and use(s) of M. charantia and its various extracts and compounds, their biochemical properties and how they act as anti-diabetic (hypoglycemic) drugs and the various mechanisms by which they exert their beneficial effects in controlling and treating DM.

keywords: Diabetes mellitus, Momordica charantia, hypoglycemic, insulin, pancreas.
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